Hamilton heads Mercedes 1-2 on Day 1 of pre-season testing in Barcelona
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes began the defence of their respective championships in style on day one of 2020 pre-season testing in Barcelona, Hamilton heading the timesheets by three-tenths of a second from team mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes completed 173 laps – the most of any team.
Seventy-nine of those laps were completed in the morning session of Day 1 by Bottas, before Hamilton took over the new Mercedes W11 for the afternoon, completing 94 laps of the slightly chilly Barcelona track and stopping the clocks with a best time of 1m 16.976s, 0.337s quicker than Bottas.
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Completing the top three, Sergio Perez enjoyed a strong opening day in the Mercedes-inspired (and powered) Racing Point RP20, the Mexican finishing up just 0.062s off Bottas’ time in P3.
AS IT HAPPENED: Day 1 of pre-season testing
With testing reduced from eight days to six for 2020, lap counts were understandably high on Day 1, with Max Verstappen topping the charts with 168 laps completed in the new Red Bull RB16, en route to the fourth fastest time of the day.
That reduction of testing time may also have accounted for the lack of wild incidents on Day 1, with Verstappen creating some excitement with a pair of spins in the afternoon, while Kevin Magnussen also had a brief off-track excursion at Turn 9, before recovering back on to the track with no harm done.
READ MORE: 10 things to watch for in Week 1 of 2020 pre-season testing
Renault found themselves slightly lap-limited, with Daniel Ricciardo – wearing a special purple testing helmet – failing to make it out initially in the afternoon session as the team carried out work on the R.S.20, which made its official debut this morning. Once he did emerge from the garage, however, the Australian finished up in P7, one place ahead of his returning F1 team mate Esteban Ocon, as the Renault pair completed 118 laps between them.
Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top five on Day 1 in the AlphaTauri AT01, while Charles Leclerc was given a surprise call-up to spend the whole day in the Ferrari SF1000, after Sebastian Vettel was taken ill and opted to return to his hotel to recuperate.
Leclerc wound up P11, one place ahead of Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi and over a second down on Hamilton’s time – with the Scuderia seemingly keeping their powder dry so far in 2020 pre-season testing.
Jolyon Palmer’s verdict
“I think the longer the day went on, the more ominous it seemed for Mercedes’ rivals. The most laps, Hamilton 94 in the afternoon with no problems at all, and they seem happy on different tyre compounds. The car looks like it has a good front end – it has definitely been a good day for them.
“The midfield is difficult to get a read on, but it looks close. Sergio Perez appeared very comfortable in the Racing Point, which looks strong – it being closer to the Mercedes – although Lance Stroll never really looked close to matching his team mate.
“Ferrari – well, it's impossible to say anything. You have to take what they have done today with a pinch of salt, as they seemed to spend the day with a lot of fuel in the car.
“I think Williams are still on the back foot. They've used the soft tyre today, and it has worked as they looked okay on the times, which is encouraging. But they might have flattered themselves more than others.”